Wednesday, April 25, 2012
A few minutes ago, Caterpillar was at the door looking at me with her appealing eyes--she wants out. I got up and went to the door. She was standing where I would be standing, so I walked over her with one foot on either side, then I had to pull one foot around in front of her so I could open the door. Foot activity around her like that unsettled her a little bit. One of my feet is the same size she is. Encased in a hard shoe, it hurts when she's in the way of one swinging toward its next step. That only happens in the dark. I carry a flashlight in the dark now so I won't kick her any more. While I was stepping all around her at the door, I automatically said, "I'm sorry, Caterpillar." She didn't know where to move to, so she hunkered down waiting for the foot activity all around her to stop. I watched her take her steps to the outside, looking at her with adoration, thinking that little gesture of respect, "I'm sorry, Caterpillar," and awareness of her presence around my feet, was a real act of respect. When I walk into the kitchen and she's drinking from her water bowl, I'll speak her name on sight to let her know I see her. It makes her anxious when she doesn't know I can see her. An affectionate mention of her name to warn her that the giant's feet are in motion and she has been spotted calms her down from looking to get out of the way in a hurry. She knows if I see her I won't kick her.
Over years of living with four-leggeds, I've seen they understand the difference between accident and intent. From the time they were babies, I'd apologized every time I hurt one by kicking or some other unconscious behavior. They understood. Between themselves, they know the difference between accidental and intentional, too. Because Caterpillar knows for a certainty at 14, almost 15 years of living with me from the day of her birth that I cannot hurt her with intent, having no intent to hurt her, and she, in turn, cannot hurt me with intent. Sometimes brushing the knots of hair on her back I'll snag a knot and she'll let out a verbal exclamation and swing around with her teeth on my hand, but only touching, not biting. Biting is an automatic response among cats to let the other know, That hurt. They bite with different degrees of pain from suggested to skin penetration. She swings around automatically, and by the time her teeth reach my hand she can't bite, just a touch with the teeth, a painless bite saying, Ouch. They don't use words, so they have to act out their meanings. I've found when I pay attention to them we communicate freely. Paying attention is the key. They are fully in the present. I am not. My mind is all over the past and future. They're focused in the present at all times. They help me focus to the present a bit more.
That respect of awareness, of paying attention, is easily done. It flows automatically from caring, from loving, from respecting the other's consciousness. Sometimes I wonder if respect amounts to awareness that the other, whoever, whatever the other may be, is worthy of respect as a consciousness, if nothing else. I can see the difference in my behavior with someone I respect and someone I don't respect. We'll go to the coffee shop again: when visiting with someone I respect, I'll visualize one in particular, I am respectful automatically with her and give respect freely. Someone else I can visualize in particular I try to act like I feel respect when I don't, and I know it shows, because it is acting. And I'm not a good actor. I don't pay a lot of attention. My mind drifts. Periodically through childhood I'd hear from daddy, "I want some respect outta you!" Every time, I'd think, Show me something to respect. That would be interpreted "talking back," and it would be my ass. Every time he'd say that I'd wonder what he could be talking about, because I never entertained respect for him a possibility. Why? He only talked down to me, told me how stupid I was and hit me every day. It's hard for a kid to respect a bully. Respect begets respect. Maybe if I'd have shown him some, he'd have shown me some. But I didn't want any from him. I didnt' want anything from him but distance. The reason: absence of respect.
In my adult life I've looked to know people I can respect. Someone I can't respect I've learned to stay away from, because lack of respect shows and I'd best keep it to myself. There are not a lot of people I can say I don't respect. When he told me in my childhood, "It's a cold, hard world out there," I was puzzled, because the only place for me that was cold, hard was home. School, people I knew in church and the neighborhood were not cold and hard. In fact, the Navy was the only time of my life I felt was cold and hard, where I had to be subject to people I didn't respect. Since then, I have refused to work for anyone I didn't respect. The primary reason, I think, I like living in the mountains is that respect is alive here. A lot of the respect here comes from the old days when all the men carried guns, when the men were tough as chestnut rails, disrespect could get a man dead. My trouble with respect at home with parents was that I felt none, could not make myself fake it, didn't want his respect. When he'd run his mouth at me, I'd act like it's going in one ear and out the other--he could talk till he ran out of words and I'd never notice. This was my stance of independence. I had no recourse in any way, not the Law, not Church, not Mother, not Grandparents. No one came to my rescue ever, so I shut down to him. That's when the noise about respect got louder.
One thing about it, the dearth of respect and the anxiety around it in that time has made me aware of respect in my adult life, since coming to the mountains, such that I spend time only with people I respect. That is quite a number. It's an awful lot of people I respect. One of the reasons I love living among mountain people so much is that I respect them. When one shows me I can't respect him, that's ok. Exceptions prove the rule. One just popped to mind I cannot respect. I would like to, because he's been in prison, and I only feel respect for people in prison and who have been in prison. Ex-cons I know don't believe I respect them, because they are trained to believe nobody respects them, so I let it be as it is. When this guys face shows up on the movie screen of my mind, I have the same feelings when I remember daddy. I see somebody I would like to respect, wish I could respect, but can't find it. I have no respect for bullies. He's always believed he bullied me, when I paid it no mind, until one day he came on like a 3rd grade bully projecting to me: I can kick your goddamn ass. My only thought in relation to that is: I can splatter your guts all over that wall behind you. Ok, so we're even, big damn deal. Showing absolutely no respect, I walked him backwards out the door taking back everything he said, simply by calling him on his attitude that he could kick my ass. There are too many equalizers at hand in this world for me to worry about some cement-head kicking my ass.
Moments such as that are so rare as not to be worth even mentioning. In the day to day world of living among people in the world I've chosen to live among, there is nothing but respect going on. My friends I love closer than kin. Respect has been important in drawing me to the people I call my friends and pleasant acquaintances. I've had a friend I've lost respect for and he drifted away from me simultaneously. There comes a time after hearing bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, all of it self-centered accusing me of egotism, I have to call his bluff (bluffing himself) and blow his circuits. Nobody challenges his superiority. That sentence is an absolute and his superiority is an absolute. I say, let it rest, ok, I agree, you're superior, it's settled, let it rest. But, that continues to be the only subject at the table that is real. I'd get so bored by it, I'd sit there amusing myself recalling the intro to a one minute comedy radio show on NPR in the 1980s, the Duck's Breath Mystery Theater, Dr Science. "Hi, I'm Doctor Science. I have a master's degree in science. I know more than you do." Every time I was around friend, this jingle rang in my head and kept me amused. Eventually, there came a time it didn't amuse me any more. It only bored me.
I don't have a lot of time left in this world, and really only want to be around people I respect any more. My life is loaded with people I respect, and respect in a big way. If I started making a list, it would go on too long. These are the people I intend to pay attention to for the rest of my life. I believe in my adult life I've known enough people, both women and men, children too, to respect a great deal, to balance my developing years of not being able to respect or trust the one I ought to have been able to respect and trust the most, absolutely. I've learned we find people we can trust and people we can respect individually. There's no group, no club, no organization where one can find people to trust and/or respect. Inside a group would be about the same as outside a group. We find the people we resonate with where we find them. I think of the people we resonate with as the ones God sends to us, or us to them, usually both at once. The people we resonate with, the people we can respect readily, the people we can trust, these are the most valuable people in our lives. Between now and the end of my days I want to honor the people I respect and resonate with. It makes for a good life.